Friday Things: The October Beach Edition

In October and April we gather with friends at the beach.  It’s one of my favorite things.

To quote author L.L. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables): “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

Happy Weekend All!

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Friday Things: The Plastic Tumblers Edition

They say this will be the last super hot weekend around here for awhile.  Which makes sense, since we’re having air conditioning installed on Monday.

Until it—and the fog—arrive, we’ll be hydrating like crazy. And thus, today’s Friday Things topic: Plastic Tumblers.

We own a range of nice drinking glasses—everything from the now vintage olive green goblets we got as wedding gifts in 1980 to sleek, contemporary (and easily replaceable) old-fashioneds from Crate & Barrel.  But none of them really hold the amount of ice water/lemonade/Diet Coke that a tall, plastic tumbler can.

For years we had kid-friendly Tupperware tumblers in bright colors.  But it seemed like it was time to class up the everyday glassware  a bit.  I spotted some elegant straight sided clear tumblers on the end-of-summer sale table at Pottery Barn and snapped them up only to find that they couldn’t survive the dishwasher (ahem, not disclosed when I purchased them).  They ended up streaked and cracked and basically useless after a few washings. (See above left.)

I took my search more seriously and finally settled on the Valencia Tall Tumblers from Williams-Sonoma.  So far they’re holding up just fine.  They’re sturdy, the rim is nicely rounded so they’re comfortable to drink from, and they look like running water—a cooling visual effect. Also, like something my Grandma Loosli would have owned.  I’ll let you know how they perform on this last big weekend of icy beverage consumption. In the meantime, here are a few other things I test-drove this week:

Commiseration for those, like my daughter Sydney, who aren’t so happy about fall. (Not me, I can’t wait for it to cool off around here!)

A spooky fun October/Halloween decoration project.

A peek into this SF cookbook author’s kitchen–love the washi tape labeling idea.

The fuss about how women speak.

One person’s meditation about finding his faith (which happens to be my faith.)

This waving Solar-Powered Pope Francis.

My sister Michelle LOVES and heartily endorses the soundtrack to the Broadway production of Hamilton. Can’t wait to give it a listen.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to Irish singer songwriter Glen Hansard’s new album “Didn’t He Ramble” all week and enjoying it very much.

Happy Weekend All!  Stay cool.

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Plum Poppy Seed Muffins

I’ve always been a breakfast person, but as I grow older I tend to like lighter fare first thing in the day.  Maybe some homemade muesli (see below) or wheat toast with nut butter and fruit on the side.  Egg dishes make an appearance on the weekends or when guests are around.  (I know, I know–I’m worth the extra effort, but I also don’t want to deal with the extra cleanup first thing in the morning.)

Baked breakfast goods are also a rarity. With just the two of us here most of the time I rarely make muffins anymore. But at the end of summer I find myself craving this hearty plum-studded muffin from food blogger Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen cookbook.


These muffins are a little bit healthier than most because of the whole wheat flour and fresh fruit. They’re neither too sweet or greasy and the poppy seeds add a subtle crunch.  (You can read more about how Perelman developed the recipe here).  And, as promised in Perelman’s chatty description before the recipe, they are just as good the second day or heated up later if you freeze them (again, the compromises/advantages of the empty nest.)

With the slight time addition of chopping the fruit, these are no harder to make than most “scratch” muffin recipes.  I tend to have whole wheat pastry flour around so I use that instead of whole wheat flour and I use silicone muffin cup liners for easier cleanup.  I’ve tried this recipe with various types of plums, but the Italian prune plums Perelman recommends are actually the best. So grab a handful of those late season plums as we say goodbye to summer and make this satisfying muffin.

Plum Poppy Seed Muffins 

from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” by Deb Perelman

Yield: 12 standard muffins

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and browned and cooled, plus butter for muffin cups

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed dark or light brown sugar

3/4 cup sour cream or a rich,full-fat plain yogurt

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon table salt

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons (20 grams) poppy seeds

2 cups pitted and diced plums, from about 3/4 pound Italian prune plums (though any plum variety will do)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Butter twelve muffin cups.

Whisk the egg with both sugars in the bottom of a large bowl.  Stir in the melted butter, then the sour cream.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and poppy seeds, and then stir them into sour-cream mixture until it is just combined and still a bit lumpy.  Fold in the plums.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Rest muffins in the pan on a cooling rack for 2 minutes, then remove them from the tin to cool them completely.


Home Made Cold Cereal 

From “Vegan Before 6” by Mark Bittman

3 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup mixed chopped nuts and seeds (like almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, or flax seeds)

1/2 cup raisins or other chopped dried fruit

1/4 cup unsweetened grated coconut

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or cardamom, or to taste

Pinch salt

4 cups soy or oat milk or other nondairy milk, for serving

Combine the oats, nuts and seeds, raisins, coconut, and spices in a large bowl.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.

To serve, put about 1 cup in a bowl and top with 1/2 cup milk.  If you have time, let the bowl sit for 5 to 10 minutes to let the oats absorb some of the milk so they’ll soften and sweeten.

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Friday Things: The Bludgeoning Sunflowers Edition

I’ve subscribed to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box for decades.  Every week I pick up a box full of organic vegetables and from May through September I can also receive a bouquet of flowers grown on the farm (Full Belly Farm north of Sacramento). These gorgeous sunflowers were today’s bouquet.

Arranging them in a vase at home, I thought of my sister Jayne’s wedding last weekend outside of Boise.   I worked on flower arrangements for the wedding site with my sister-in-law Saren and my mother-in-law Jackie (it was a big family affair!)  Jayne chose sunflowers as the dominant flower in the bouquets and provided several bunches from her local Costco.  Alas, most of them were pretty droopy.

After dealing with sunflowers from the farm over the years I knew that the woody stalks would need more than a quick trim to help them drink water.  This was news to the rest of the family florists who looked aghast as I pounded the ends of the stalks with the handles of my clippers. But bludgeoning sunflower stalks really does help them take in water.  It’s an easy, aggression-dispelling thing to try at home.

Cut the sunflowers to their desired length.  Smash them with a blunt instrument.  (My bludgeoning tool of choice is a little hammer or mallet.) Your sunflowers should now be able to drink enough water to stay fresh for a week–though it’s still best to change the water and trim and smash the stems again mid-week.

Here are some other helpful things from this week–

One man’s French pottery collection.

West Elm’s VP of Furniture and Lighting Design shares his 5 Favorite Things. 

How a self-taught photographer staged a wedding and ended up as a pro.

Carly Fiorni’s Look At This Face ad.

What we can learn from doomsday predictions.

Medieval students’ letters to their parents asking for money.

This pretty video that has something to do with a seed.

Happy Weekend All!

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Field Trip: South Park, San Francisco

Recently I was invited to dinner at the offices of my niece’s hi-tech start up in the booming South of Market area of San Francisco. The on-site food was some of the best I’ve had and the interiors more upscale than many tech companies I’ve visited.  But during the after dinner tour of my niece’s office I noted a familiar mix of serious and silly design elements.

For example,  stacks of The Paris Review and MIT Technology Review magazines were prominently displayed in the reception area.  Upstairs, in an open gathering space oversized stuffed animals in tasteful earth-tones served as throw pillows.  And throughout the loft-like space, colorful commuter bikes complimented the fun, smart, ironic design that is SOMA style. It was a treat to see this latest incarnation of innovation.

But you don’t need to step inside the doors of a start up to get a taste of this tech-driven eclectic design.  A tour of San Francisco’s vibrant South Park neighborhood will give you a sense of how innovation and design interact here in the Bay Area.

South Park gets its name from a small, oval-shaped park bordered by South Park Street which runs around the park.  The area is bounded by Second, Third, Bryant and Brannan streets.

The neighborhood was originally developed as an exclusive residential community in 1855 by English entrepreneur George Gordon. It was the first neighborhood in San Francisco to incorporate paved streets and sidewalks and a windmill in the center of the park pumped water for the original mansions and townhouses.

The 1906 earthquake caused significant damage to the area and subsequent reconstruction emphasized warehouses, light manufacturing companies and nightclubs.  Today you’ll find a bit of all these things still happening around this historic park.

The mix of architecture—everything from Victorian homes to contemporary gems like the private residence/public art gallery Gallery House by Ogridziak Prillinger architects—is particularly fascinating.

Many design professionals work in the area.  For example, architect Toby Levy of Levy Design Studios lives and works in this striking contemporary structure.

Other design professionals produce their wares here.  For example, you can catch a glimpse of the fabrication space at Sand Studios.

Where this dramatic light fixture was created.

Or pick up some cutting edge art of your own at Gallery 16.

Ready for a break?  Stop for a bite to eat at some of the fine restaurants in the area like The Butler and the Chef Bistro or assemble an impromptu picnic at the upscale grocery store Small.

While you’re lunching, imagine what some of the multi-million dollar residences around the park look like from the inside.  Here’s a glimpse into an extraordinary South Park property developed by MT Development Company and designed by the architects Geddes Ulinskas and Cass Calder Smith.

The living  and dining areas look out over South Park.

Geometric niches throughout provide plenty of display space.

And the expansive floor plan allows for multiple seating areas.

An interior atrium sheds light throughout the multi-story space.

Multiple balconies open the home up to the urban SOMA views.

No matter how you look at it, a century and a half later the Victorian start up known as South Park continues to surprise and delight.

Thanks to Lisa Boquiren, marketing maven and associate editor of the soon-to-launch Marin At Home magazine, for her expert tour of South Park.


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Friday Things: The Curses Foiled Again Edition

More bad news on the deer front this week.  Last night’s conquest—an until now untouched shrub—was so violently ravaged that out of respect I feel like I should cover its snapped branches with more than deer netting.

I spotted the prong-horned culprit and his gang of thieves as I pulled into the driveway at the end of the day. They were lurking across the street on the edge of the open space ready to chow down once I’d retired for the night.   I figured I’d outsmarted them by applying “Liquid Fence” earlier in the day to the areas they’d attacked before.  Instead they fooled me by going for the unprotected shrub they’d ignored before.  Well-played Bambi.  Well-played.

A tour of the fenced back garden lifted my spirits, however.  We have a bumper crop of Sun Gold tomatoes and these black stemmed dahlias are still going strong.

That’s the nature of gardens.  They can break your heart in one quadrant at the same time that they’re melting your heart in another.  I’ll just have to keep fighting the good fight out front while enjoying the blossoms out back.  Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go apply another round of “Liquid Fence” before the sun goes down.

Here are some other things I tried to watch out for this week:

How to keep good tomatoes fresh.

 Inkblot-inspired Decor.

“Difficulty often becomes an engine forcing intimacy between a book and its reader; that expenditure of effort and attention becomes a kind of glue.” Author Leslie Jamison on the value of tackling inaccessible books.

A German literary critic reviews the latest IKEA catalog.

Paper dolls made from porcelain. -

Garrison Keillor on retiring.

Charming video on how to age gracefully.

Happy Labor Day Weekend All!

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Friday Things: The Aerial View Edition

So how are you spending the last weekend of summer?  I’ll be deadheading  plants, doing laundry and generally catching up after yet another trip to Utah. Three family weddings (including Will’s) had me flying into the Beehive State once a month over the summer.

On a clear day, the descent into Salt Lake City is quite lovely.  The evaporation ponds on the northeast side of the Great Salt Lake are colored in vivid shades of red, green and purple caused by the minerals left over after evaporation (above).  This last trip, however, smoke from fires in surrounding states placed a gray filter over the view.  Here’s what the descent looked like last Friday.

Things didn’t clear up much over the weekend but by Tuesday when I flew home there was a hint of blue sky and more of that jewel-like aerial art. Much better.  (Any wedding metaphor here? Well, I’d advise all the newlyweds to let the smoke clear when assessing their fledgling marriages.)

Which reminds me that you might be interested in following THE.JEFFERSON.GRID on Instagram to see artful square mile aerial shots from Google Maps (thanks for the tip, Claire). Here are a few other things worth looking at this week:

The elegant graphics of the digital game Prune.

Stylish self-watering planters.

Graphic contemporary quilts at a relatively good price point (speaking as a quilter.)

This guy’s explanation for how his email ended up on the Ashley Madison website.

How the modern dating crisis plays out in Mormon and Jewish cultures (thanks, Syd.)

The bias against air conditioning (not new, but of interest since we’re thinking about adding air conditioning to our home.)

Theo Jansen’s eerily beautiful Strandbeests strolling on the beach.

Pep Talk Generator.

And finally, the song of my summer was on the playlist of every wedding we attended.  It’s been a hit with the next generation ever since they saw their uncle M.J. boogie down to “Brick House” at Sydney’s wedding three years ago.

 Happy Last Weekend of Summer All!


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Friday Things: The Fire Season Edition

Today the air smells like smoke and the sky is buzzing with helicopters.  I suspect they’re monitoring the fires north of us that are burning out of control. I am watching them circle the Bay and thinking about the Oakland Hills Firestorm in 1991.

We didn’t lose our home but close friends did and I remember the shock and confusion as we sat together in our front room and watched the television reports of their neighborhood burning. The afternoon sun glowed red in a sky turned black.  For days ash rained down on our cars, yards and homes. For months afterwards the burn area looked like a moonscape.  You grew quiet when you drove through it.  Out of respect.  And also because you felt relieved and somewhat guilty that you’d been spared.

For now our house seems to be safe, but my new garden is suffering. The deer have become more aggressive—eating newly planted bushes they’d left alone until now. Perhaps they would have anyway, drawn by the apples ripening on the front yard tree, or maybe the fires are driving them closer to the water.  Just to be safe.

Some other things I tracked this week.

Keeping gravity at bay with the Lexus Hoverboard.

Some nifty summer drink ideas (including non-alchoholic or easy to make so options) here and here.

Would it be optimal to die at 75?

Smart talk about Jon Stewart.

“If you have information to send out through space and time, you must build it a story that knows how to motor.” On symbolism and metaphor–author Neil Gaiman by way of Justine Munk.

I bet this is what surfing feels like.

WAVEFORM from O’Neill on Vimeo.

Happy Weekend All!


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Friday Things: The Pioneer Day Edition

When I was a kid the biggest event of the summer happened one town down the line on July 24th. Known as “Pioneer Day” or, more pragmatically, “The 24th,” this county-wide celebration commemorated the day that Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley after leading his people across the plains. On that fateful July 24 in 1847 Young rose up from his sickbed to announce that the pioneers had finally found a home. His “this is the place” pronouncement launched a flotilla of crepe paper floats in small town parades across the Intermountain West for decades to come.

When I was a teenager I marched in the county parade in a short pinstriped jumper and white Keds with my high school drill team and later rode on the front hood of a sports car in a pale blue Gunny Sax dress (see above) waving my best beauty queen wave.

As a child I was most often a bystander hoping to catch the salt water taffy thrown from the flatbed floats carrying displays of our proud history.  But one summer a friend’s dad arranged for us to ride our bikes in the parade and we spent the night before weaving red and yellow crepe paper through the spokes of our bike wheels and making tassles to dangle off the handlebars.  We dressed up as clowns and threw our own candy stash out of our bike baskets as we rode beside the floats depicting busted handcarts and giant beehives.  Makes me hanker for some salt water taffy just thinking about that giddy ride.

Here are a few other things I’m thinking about on this Pioneer Day.

The inspiration behind Sea Ranch.

Cross-stitched furniture.

This image of a girl with her head in the (cotton-candy) clouds.

Shoes made from ocean waste.

Almonds and chilies in a summer melon salad. 

Letting kids figure things out on their own.

Some thoughts on Bill Cosby.

Penn Jillette on Donald Trump.

James Corden, Rod Stewart & A$AP carpooling.

Happy Pioneer Day All!

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My Giant June

You know how big events often dog pile in your calendar rather than lining up in an orderly fashion? That was my June. It all started with our daughter Sydney’s graduation from Harvard Law School.  Harvard Law.   Quite remarkable that.  And then a week later her little brother Will’s graduation from MIT.  Really, no words. Just a whole lot of gratitude (and some incredulity) that despite the stumbles we made along the way things turned out so well for our kids.

Rather than fly back and forth across the country to attend both graduations we rented a charming house full of nautical knickknacks on Cape Cod for the week in between.

We took leisurely day trips to learn about pilgrims and whalers and caught glorious sunsets on nearly empty beaches before spending most evenings watching home renovation shows because that’s what the kids wanted to do—go figure.

After touching down briefly back here in California we flew to Salt Lake City where Will was married to his lovely bride Lori.

Though Lori and her family threw the main wedding party outdoors in a picture-perfect orchard we hosted several other events including a cozy rehearsal dinner at Brigham Young’s former home where our gathered families toasted the handsome couple and sang Happy Birthday to me for my 57th birthday.

After sending the newly minted Mr. & Mrs. Pritchett off on their honeymoon with a paper airplane salute we headed home to finish up some projects in time to host a rollicking California celebration.

A few days later we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary with coral-themed gifts as dictated by the internet custom.

Every event of the past month was significant and there’s lots more to share about each one but for now I’ll leave you with a few insights from the month.

  • Harvard sure knows how to “pomp” it up.
  • As they wait backstage, soon-to-be MIT graduates are instructed to take their diplomas and “then remember to shake the presenter’s hand.”
  • Lobster rolls rock.
  • Every home renovation and sale on Flip or Flop turns out pretty much the same and yet you still want to see if they’ll score the sale.
  • There’s no way to pack light when you’re the Mother of the Groom.
  • Fertilize, fertilize, fertilize if you want your garden to bloom on cue.
  • Mulch makes everything better.
  • You can serve ice cream cake to 150 people over a 3 hour block with the help of a little dry ice and a rented freezer.
  • Your husband of 35 years can still surprise you with the perfect anniversary gift.

Details to follow.

Nice to be back.

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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    • Fortunately @mitchmaynecom clued me in about the Super Bowl happening here this weekend so I could stock up on the appropriate snacks. Go. . .Teams??